In this column on Friday, we wrote that Republican lawmakers (especially in Florida) should be relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Obama Administration in King v. Burwell, since it took the pressure off the party and the candidates running for president to actually have to offer a legitimate alternative if millions of people all of a sudden lost their health care because of the decision.
Although not at the same level, you could argue the GOP candidates for president caught another break with the High Court’s major ruling on Friday, when a little after 10 a.m., same-sex marriage in America became the law of the land.
While gay rights activists and their supporters partied all weekend long in St. Petersburg and in cities around the country (and around the world as part of Pride events), the GOP presidential candidates were put on the spot in terms of how we should move forward as a society at this historic moment in time.
Echoing Jeb Bush’s comment on Friday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said yesterday “it’s time to move on” and shift the Republican Party’s focus away from gay marriage and instead solving “problems here together.” In an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation, Kasich said he believes “in traditional marriage” between a man and a woman, but distanced himself from conservatives demanding a constitutional amendment to allow states to prohibit same-sex marriage.
But while Kasich (who will officially announce his candidacy on July 21), Bush and Chris Christie are all part of the GOP establishment that don’t think it’s productive to engage in a cultural war on this issue, this is a GOP presidential primary, which means part of the base is unhappy about the court’s decision. And there are plenty of other candidates who are ready to fill that void.
There is lots of talk about religious freedom and “conscience protection,” similar to the reaction in the Florida House of Representatives after state lawmakers repealed the 35-year-old ban on same-sex adoption.
Ted Cruz said Saturday that he “absolutely” believes that his state’s county clerks should deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they have a religious objection, in an interview with The Texas Tribune.
“Ours is a country that was built by men and women fleeing religious oppression,” Cruz told the newspaper, “and you look at the foundation of this country — it was to seek out a new land where anyone of us could worship the Lord God Almighty with all of our hearts, minds and souls, without government getting in the way.”
Mike Huckabee, who a week ago said that he didn’t think that questions about the Confederate flag were legitimate to ask him, suggested yesterday that Christians opposed to the ruling will carry out civil disobedience. Invoking the name of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., he said that Christian business owners, university presidents and school administrators and will push back against the ruling, and said that county clerks shouldn’t have to carry out the court’s decision and issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. “If they have a conscientious objection, I think they should be excused,” he said.
Bobby Jindal said that though he thinks the court’s decision was wrong, Louisiana would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, once a lower court had issued its own ruling on the matter.
As of this morning, Louisiana is the only state in the country were no marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples following the decision to recognize gay marriage Friday. Jindal has said the state is waiting on a ruling from an appeals court that is overseeing a case involving gay marriage in Louisiana before recognizing it.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum told the hosts of Fox & Friends yesterday that Congress should pass laws to require Supreme Court justices to face elections and to force them to “take all appeals” because of their ruling that legalized marriage for same-sex couples. “The better solution if you’re going to put effort into trying to control the judiciary is by doing things that limits their jurisdiction or requires, for example, the Supreme Court to take all appeals,” he said.
Will we hear more of this rhetoric on the campaign trail? Undoubtedly in Iowa, and maybe South Carolina. Not too much in New Hampshire. But this is where the battle within the party may play out, and where the establishment candidates get “out-conservatived” by other candidates.
And we should note that Scott Walker actually doubled down on anger about the ruling, actually going out to call for a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision.